Retiree Leonard Cox tried his hand at giant pumpkins for the first time last year, and managed to grow a 285-pound whopper despite the Victor Valley's pumpkin-unfriendly climate.


This year, the former Air Force sergeant has grown two much larger.


Four Atlantic Giant pumpkins sit nestled amongst the vines and leaves of his backyard garden, each with their own hand-painted name sign: Margie, Maggie, Mabel and Molly.


Last year's champion, which he christened Maybelle, weighed 285 pounds. Cox determined the weight by calculating the vegetable's volume.


This year's champion is Margie, which weighs 375 pounds as of Sept. 25. Maggie weighs 365 pounds, Mabel weighs 263 pounds and Molly weighs 226 pounds.


"They about quit growing," said Cox, 83, who intends to leave them on the vine for a bit longer.


Cox, who has served in the Marine Corps, Air Force and Postal Service, moved to Hesperia with his wife in 1968. As a boy, he grew up on a farm in Tennessee.


Last year, Cox donated his giant pumpkins to the Boulder Creek Ranch Harvest Festival and hopes to do the same this year.


Beau Yarbrough may be reached at (760) 956-7108 or at beau@HesperiaStar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.